Ray Allen was one of the best shooting guards of his era. He played instrumental roles in the 2008 and 2013 NBA Finals. Yet when his name comes up, too often it is associated with drama, bad blood, and betrayal.
That’s how it is for Boston Celtics fans, incensed that Allen left their winning core for the rival Miami Heat. Stranger still, even people who should know better, people who understand the business of professional sports, saw Allen’s move as unforgivable. Recently, he spoke his mind on why those hurt feelings persist, and whether he’ll ever be able to move past it.
Ray Allen finally opens up in a wide-ranging podcast interview
Allen appeared on an April 14th episode of The Cedric Maxwell Podcast to discuss many topics. But as usual, since his tense departure from Boston, the conversation settled on his Celtics exit.
The three-point king has addressed his exit many times. But this interview stands out for how it covers the emotional side of this lingering part of his professional history.
Allen had already been in the league for a decade by the time he arrived in Boston in 2007. He immediately earned his way into the hearts of the local fan base by slotting into a new core of himself, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce. They quickly returned the Celtics toward playoff success and won the 2008 Finals.
That good will lasted only as long as Allen’s tenure in Boston did. “I’ve gotten so much hate, death threats, vitriol from Boston fans,” he said on the podcast.
Worse still, his former teammates still hold onto their resentment. “[…]these guys have kind of removed me from the big three, said so many negative things about me. […]It hurt me over the course of this time just to hear some of the things that have been said.”
How moving to the wrong team made Ray Allen a pariah in Boston
This vitriol all came down not just because Allen left, but because of which team he joined. The Heat took out the Celtics in a heartbreaking 2012 Eastern Conference Finals. The Boston front office showed little interest in keeping their “Big Three” together, sticking to an offer for Allen that was well below his market value. So he left.
Garnett and Pierce weren’t being entirely irrational to react poorly to the move. By Allen’s own telling, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, and Minnesota Timberwolves all showed interest in enlisting his sharpshooting services. He didn’t have to go with the Heat, but they offered the same higher pay alongside the best chance to win.
Why the telling of his Celtics exit matters
Ray Allen is clearly biased in sharing his side of the story of his exit. There could well be some personal details lost in his retrospective version of what went down. But if the NBA is a business where teams can trade at a moment’s notice, why is it seen as a problem for players to also look out for the best deal possible?
Allen gave the Heat one of the most special moments of their period of repeated NBA Finals appearances. He sunk a late game-tying three off a Chris Bosh rebound that is still regarded as one of the best Finals moments of all time. Should he have been denied this opportunity?
It brings to mind the dismissiveness over Kevin Durant’s time with the Golden State Warriors, or LeBron James’ own move to an ascendant version of the Heat. Should great players be forced to leave cash on the table? Should they be saddled with middling teams for the entirety of their careers, like the great Hakeem Olajuwon was with the Houston Rockets?
Allen’s record on the teams he joined should be the core of his NBA storyline, not the drama set off by a team that didn’t want to pay him.